PATIENTS’ RIGHTS: Supporters Set Deadline to Speed Process
Dissatisfied with the sluggish pace of legislation to regulate managed care, patients' rights supporters have set a deadline for the House-Senate conference to either strike a deal or reach a "tentative agreement on paper," CongressDaily/A.M. reports. At a news conference yesterday, Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) said that if this deadline -- scheduled for the end of next week -- is not met, "we must move past the conference. Make no mistake about it. Time is up." Norwood, who sponsored the House bill but was denied a seat on the conference, is in agreement with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who admitted, "We've made painfully little progress," and if staff discussions over the next week remain fruitless, "we'll make every effort to go to the floor to pass a meaningful bill." Despite frustrations reported in the House, Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-Okla.), chair of the conference, indicated that Senate Republicans are willing to negotiate. "We discussed liability. That's not in the Senate bill, so if there's been any flexibility it's been on our side," Nickles said, referring to discussions on patients' ability to sue health plans for damages over care denials that result in injury or death. Nickles also indicated that Senate Republicans adamantly oppose any final bill that would increase the cost of health insurance. However, at the news conference, Norwood revealed a poll reporting that 72% of respondents would be willing to pay an extra $15 per month in premiums for HMO reform, suggesting that patients are highly concerned about protections. Poll results also indicated that 87% of voters consider passing a patients' bill of rights this year to be "important" (Rovner/Fulton, Congressional Daily/A.M., 5/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.